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Olympics Get Thunderstuck

Rowing volunteer fans with white Thundersticks. (By Al Bello - Getty)

My colleague Amy Shipley wrote a must-read story for Wednesday's paper about the attendance problem at many of the Olympic venues, and the corresponding presence of hundreds of yellow-shirted official volunteers in the stands as place-holders.

It's a serious issue at an Olympics that is supposed to be 100 percent sold out, with no scalping allowed and no way in, to the dismay of many ordinary Chinese and Swedish handball parents. (Although I met some young Americans yesterday who have been able to get tickets to whatever they wanted from an "official" re-seller at a local hotel.) And yet there's another fan crisis that has been less reported: the Thunderstick crisis.

Post-event thunderstuck garbage cans.

Just about every venue I've been to at these Games has had a different variety of those internal scourges of American pro sports. Boxing? Shiny silver and blue noisemakers. Team handball? Yellow blow-up ear crushers with red script. Rowing? White demon fan toys with red script. In almost every case, the ones doing the thundersticking are the volunteer fans, and so not only are they ringers, they're cheering in the most annoyingly loud and bland fashion possible.

Sure, there are great fans here. The Chinese basketball fans have been loud, if monotonous. There are Australians aplenty, and they're generally solid; some brought an inflatable kangaroo to the whitewater slalom races yesterday. Eastern European contingents have been particularly impressive in their attire.

I just wish Olympic fans could demonstrate the best of international sporting culture--grown men who dress as female pigs, shirtless body painted messages, team-logo tattoos, paper bags over heads--rather than Thundersticks, which are so clearly the worst.

The former are about creativity, laughter and unbridled individualism, adding a dash of flabby white joy to sporting events that sometimes feel too much like television dramas and too little like real life. The latter--the Sticks--are about group think, soul-deflating conformity and an infernal racket that only Satan could enjoy.

Softball volunteer fans with yellow Thundersticks. (By Vladimir Rys - Getty)

Beach volleyball volunteer fans with yellow and red Thundersticks. (By Carlos Barria - Reuters)

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 12, 2008; 11:58 PM ET
Categories:  Olympics  
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Next: Judo Fans Get Creative


That spanish basketball team are idiots and I hope they are banned from any medals if they win one. To show racisism at the biggest sporting event in the world shows racist ignorance and should be dealt with,they,the team are racists and not worth the ground they walk on,they should never be able to compete in any olympics for 8 years,they are totally jerks and should be treated that way with big fines and just shows how behind in the times the spanish people are and its not a funny stunt,its hitler mentality Craig

Posted by: Craig Haynes | August 13, 2008 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Craig Haynes, I agree with you. People who use thundersticks are as bad as Hitler.

Posted by: Webster | August 13, 2008 1:43 AM | Report abuse

screw hitler, Togo won a bronze medal in kayaking. holy crap

Posted by: Anonymous | August 13, 2008 2:07 AM | Report abuse

Blame IOC and Athens. It's all their faults. Last time in Athens, IOC loudy complained about empty seats in most events, esp in any preliminary events. So from the news reports I read, Beijing's organisers seem to be too afraid of such compaints from IOC so that they have decided long long long ago that every event should be covered at least by a band of organised "fans".

Well, like any pre-emptive strategy, it backfires and causes unexpected complaints from unexpected people, from example, sports fundamentalists like you guys.

Posted by: Chinese Translator | August 13, 2008 2:12 AM | Report abuse

And webster and all, don't hilterize anything in china. We are not nazis. Even those guys in yellow are having fun, I think.

Posted by: Chinese Translator | August 13, 2008 2:42 AM | Report abuse

Hey Dan, I'm in Beijing and scouring for tickets ... you might want to explore the very very active craigslist page for ticket scalping. I got outbid today on US v. Nigeria tix. Face value is 150 rmb. I offered 500 rmb. I did not get the tickets.

US v Anybody in basketball has been escalating at an amazing rate. The most recent offer in Craigslist, with a girl freely offering her email address to any police looking for her, for US v Greece was 3500 rmb, which works out to a staggering $515 USD.

Face value of those tix? 150 rmb.

Screw the stock market, I should have invested in Olympic tickets.

Posted by: Ryan | August 13, 2008 4:14 AM | Report abuse

PS ... here's the link to the 3500 rmb tickets to the Re-Deem Team game. This isn't even for the medal round!

Posted by: Ryan | August 13, 2008 4:16 AM | Report abuse

I often suspect there some profession ticket re-sellers here. They buy tickets on official prices, and re-sell them on double / triple prices. Another explanation for the empty seats -- those resellers miscaculate, who knows

Posted by: Chinese Translator | August 13, 2008 5:40 AM | Report abuse

The large blocks of fans making noise while wearing colors of none of the competing countries have been interesting.

Posted by: sitruc | August 13, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse

The attendance woes could have something to do with the fear of getting stabbed by crazed locals....

Posted by: Stalk Much? | August 13, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

the American that got stabbed was nowhere near the Olympic parks/stadiums.

Posted by: ahern | August 13, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Well, at least they aren't deploying the dreaded "Dying Cow Horns". Those are even more evil than thundersticks. They're the work of the debul, I tells ya!

Posted by: EdTheRed | August 13, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

The Chinese politburo needs to outsource the job of fandom to the Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava, La Norte, and Esquina United.

That'll learn 'em!

Posted by: The simple solution | August 13, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Sure, lets take the Spanish basketball team and throw them in the fire. Next lets throw every deaf person who does the signs for "Chinese" or "Black" in American Sign Language, since they are based on physical (racial) attributes.
Next lets censor any TV show with racial jokes (The Simpsons, Family Guy, Carlos Mencia, Futurama). And finally lets hunt down and shoot everyone who has anything to do with putting Asians in concentration camps during WWII just for being Asian. That is almost as bad as the "Spanish wink"

Posted by: Grafigth | August 14, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

what are the sports' thundersticks made of?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

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